Earlier this week, I spent the day with my sister and adorably smushable new baby niece. In between feeding, we’d keep an eye on the sleeping munchkin and talk, sometimes about the state of daytime TV, but mostly about motherhood. She’s deep in the throes of the First 6 Weeks, and like every new mom I’ve ever met (including myself), she’s, shall we say, a tad overwhelmed. I hope she takes comfort in the fact that this is totally NORMAL.
She said that nights are the toughest. And I agreed with her completely. I tried to reassure her, but I’m fairly sure whatever I said came out as clichés and platitudes that are of exactly zero help. But hopefully, I let her know that she’s not alone.
At 3:30 AM that night (or morning, whatever), as I stared at the ceiling wringing my brain matter over what to do about school for my son next year, I realized I was right there with her. The nights are the worst for me, too.
In the daylight, it’s easier to push the concerns and fears and anxieties into the back of your mind. They’re there, but so much other commotion is happening that they stay at bay with a lot less effort. I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t often get the luxury of completing a thought during the day, much less the time it takes to get a really good worry in. Not that that stops me – I’m a 24/7 worrier. The level just fluctuates. But in the dead of night, the chaotic hum quiets down, and the hamster wheel in my brain starts flying, unbidden, and often uncontrollably. There aren’t many distractions when you’re lying there in the dark (snoring husbands or even feeding babies aside), so the mind has room and time to run wild.
When I worry at night, my emotions are supercharged. I get angrier, more frightened, sadder, crabbier than I would during the day. I think the lack of stimulation gives the worry energy. But then the sun comes up, and I’m usually able to tamp the worry down to a more manageable size. It’s one of the keys to being a mom – you worry, but you also handle the worry.
I’m no expert mom. I have 4 ½ years experience, which only means that I’ve gotten used to never really sleeping again. Most of my clothes have been stained by a variety of pureed foods and bodily fluids I’d rather not identify, and I’ve learned that OxyClean is a godsend. And Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. (Those things are born of liquid magic and filled with rainbows.)
And I’ve come to learn that there are lots of moms out there with lots of different experiences, but I’ll bet almost every one of them has lain awake a night, once or twice, wondering, worrying, deciphering, figuring out. And that makes us all the same, at least a little bit.